Report: World Must Respond Sooner to Food Crises

Posted January 18th, 2012 at 6:50 am (UTC-5)
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Aid agencies say thousands of lives were lost in the East African food crisis because the international community waited to respond until the shortage was a full-blown emergency.

A report released Wednesday by Oxfam and Save the Children says a food shortage for the region was reported as early as August 2010, but rich donor nations failed to respond until famine was declared in parts of Somalia in 2011.

Oxfam's Chief Executive Barbara Stocking said in a statement that the suffering of thousands of children could have been avoided if the international community had responded when warning signs of drought first appeared.

The report says it is impossible to know how many lives were lost because of the drought, but it quotes the British government saying between 50,000 and 100,000 people died between April and August 2011. It says more than half of those were children under age five, and most were in Somalia.

The report also notes that transporting emergency water supplies into affected areas cost more than three times the $900,000 it would have cost to prepare water sources in the region for the oncoming drought.

The report urges the international community to act much faster to avert disaster in West Africa, where it says a looming food crisis threatens to affect millions.